Check out our photos from the Texas Beer Festival at Discovery Green.
This past Saturday, a sun-drenched Discovery Green was converted into a playground for beer-lovers as it played host to the second annual Texas Beer Fest. As I walked into the festival grounds, I opened up the event booklet and read about the goals of Clif and Jake, the event organizers: to carry out a beer festival that the city and state could be proud of, and to encourage curious drinkers to "experience what there is on offer" in the craft beer world.
I crossed my fingers, hoping that these ambitious goals would be met, and practically skipped inside the grounds. I was so happy that my "play-date" with beer had finally arrived. For a nondiscriminating beer drinker who's always up for trying new beer -- no matter its color, style, ingredients or place of birth -- this was truly the equivalent of a four-year-old arriving at the playground of her dreams.
Best of all, I was one of the first people to arrive, so I didn't have to wait in any long lines to begin the fun. My first stop was at the ticket booth, where I purchased 12 tickets for $12 -- this would be my currency for my time at the fair. Each ticket would entitle me to any two-ounce taste of my choosing, while I had the option of trading in six tickets for a full 12-ounce pour, anytime I wanted.
After acquiring my tickets, I scanned the event area, trying to devise a game plan to explore the offerings of the approximately 70 breweries on site -- 23 Texas breweries, and the rest from all over the U.S. What I wanted was to try as many quality brews as possible before the big crowds stampeded in, not go through my drink tickets too fast, and remain sober enough for my drive home. Could it be done? Maybe.
But who was I kidding? I didn't have the patience to devise a clever plan -- time was ticking. I opted to start walking alongside the beer booths and stopping only at the booths whose brewery names I'd never heard before, or those that had long been on the "must-try" list. I also really wanted to focus on Texas beers, given that it was the Texas Beer Fest.
I found myself at the Colorado-based Left Hand Brewing Co.'s booth, where I opted to try the Milk Stout Nitro. I handed over my first ticket to the attendant, who proceeded to pour my beer so hard and sloppily, it looked like he was trying to break my plastic pint glass with the mere force of the beer. As I took my first sip, the attendant explained his seemingly rage-filled pouring method. "It's to release the nitrogen in the beer. I know it looked kind of weird when I poured it, but it really makes a difference in releasing all of the flavors." He kept talking, but I had tuned him out; I was too busy savoring the sweet, creamy milk stout that seemed made of drops of happiness straight from the heavens above. Man, oh man, was it good.
I snapped out of my hypnotized state and moved on to find my next stop. I landed at the booth of Adelbert's -- the Austin brewery that's been around since 2010. I asked the attendants, employees of the brewery (many booths were manned by volunteers), what the best beer was. Without hesitation, they told me to try the Tripel B. Just one sip showed why they recommended it; it was fantastic. The brew was spicy and complex, with the expected notes of sweetness. It reminded me of a fine dried apricot glaze or marmalade. This beer, too, was liquid goodness sent from above.
My attention was then caught by a sign for beer with lots of oranges on it. I had arrived at California's Indian Wells Brewing Company, and they were pouring their Orange Blossom Amber. I excitedly tried this orange-tinted beer, which smelled -- and tasted -- just like an orange lollipop or soda. Was it my favorite? Probably not, but I enjoyed it, and its uniqueness is undeniable.
Next, I stopped at some new breweries' booths, all from Austin. Rogness was the first I visited -- a brewery with only one month of existence under its belt. Needless to say, the folks at the booth were super excited to be getting exposure via their highly approachable Yogi Chai Amber, Rook Scotch Ale, and Porter. Although Rogness is only in Austin taps for the time being, the brewery plans on branching out of Austin in mid-summer.
I then paid a visit to South Austin Brewing Co.'s booth, where I tried the Saison d'Austin -- a clean, simultaneously caramel- and earthy-flavored brew. These guys have been up and running for only two months.
Finally, I stopped by Circle Brewing Company, also of Austin. I had the pleasure of trying the Alibi, Envi and Blur (brownie points for cool beer names), all nice beers which they've been making since January of 2011. I chatted for a moment with the friendly Jud, one of the brewery's owners. I explained that his booth was the third young brewery hailing from Austin I'd discovered that day. When I inquired how he felt about that (were they friends or enemies?), he replied assertively, with a smile, "We're all on the same team. We are all friends. It's all of us against the big guys. We all just want to make craft brewing more popular. We have a great community -- we're all a part of the Texas Craft Brewers Guild."
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Little guys sticking together to face the big guys seemed to be what many exhibitors were shooting for. This was especially true with the really, really little guys, such as New Republic Brewery (Aggie-owned and -operated), which produces a humble two barrels per week. It's wonderful that these often under-recognized breweries could be at the same place at the same time to introduce the public to their beers.
In the end, both the Texas Beer Fest organizers and I reached our ambitious goals. I hereby declare the 2nd Annual Texas Beer Fest a success.